Bioavailability of Nutrients of Public Health Concern and their Association with the Animal/Plant Ratio in Diets of Female Residential Students of Bangladesh


  • Marjia Sultana
  • Towhid Hasan
  • Saiful Islam
  • Nazma Shaheen


Bioavailability, Nutrients, Nutritional adequacy, Animal to plant ratio, University students, Bang


Students, particularly female students, living in university dormitories are susceptible to various nutritional
deficiencies due to their improper dietary practice and poor diet quality. Whether food originates from animal or
plant sources contributes greatly to the quality of their diets in terms of nutritional adequacy. This study made
a bioavailability assessment of four nutrients (vitamin A, iron, protein, and zinc) from students’ diets followed
by examining whether bioavailability relates to the animal/plant ratio (A/P) in the diets of female residential
students (FRS) of Bangladesh. Previously published dietary algorithms or conversion factors specific to different
food groups were used to assess nutrient bioavailability in the diets of 180 (60 for iron) FRS of the University of
Dhaka. Nutrient inadequacy was evaluated using i) an individual diet approach (estimating bioavailability from
individual diets), and ii) a dietary pattern approach (presuming average bioavailability for mixed diets). The mean
absorptions of iron and zinc, quality of protein, and conversion factor for β-carotene were 15.5%, 35.1%, 66.1%,
and 17:1, respectively. Among the individual diets, a large range in bioavailability was observed, which was
explained inadequately by their A/P. There was a significant difference in inadequacy prevalence when iron and
protein bioavailability from individual diets were compared with bioavailability estimates calculated applying
average conversion factors for mixed diets. The A/P could not necessarily predict the nutrient bioavailability
in FRS diets. Hence, it is important to consider the diet composition when evaluating nutrient adequacy in the
diets of FRS and other students.